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Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Roman and her fellow chief petty officer selectees at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, practice singing “Anchors Away” for the much-anticipated pinning ceremony Sept. 15.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Roman and her fellow chief petty officer selectees at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, practice singing “Anchors Away” for the much-anticipated pinning ceremony Sept. 15. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Roman and her fellow chief petty officer selectees at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, practice singing “Anchors Away” for the much-anticipated pinning ceremony Sept. 15.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Roman and her fellow chief petty officer selectees at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, practice singing “Anchors Away” for the much-anticipated pinning ceremony Sept. 15. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

In keeping with a tradition started only last year at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, this year’s class of CPO selectees form a golden chief’s anchor of spray-painted rocks early one morning in front of the house of the base skipper, Capt. Floyd Hehe.

In keeping with a tradition started only last year at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, this year’s class of CPO selectees form a golden chief’s anchor of spray-painted rocks early one morning in front of the house of the base skipper, Capt. Floyd Hehe. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Tomorrow’s chief petty officers in Europe are living through an oxymoron: a changing tradition.

They’re mixing a little bit of the old with a healthy dose of the new as they develop into the leaders of the Navy’s enlisted forces.

And they’re more than OK with that.

“We’re moving along in the 21st century, and we have to be changing with the times, even in this very traditional process,” said Kim Roman, three weeks into her transition from an E-6 to an E-7, the Navy’s coveted rank of chief petty officer.

“I’m in the first class of the new CPO Academy. I’m a plank owner,” beamed the 35-year-old legalman with the Regional Legal Service Office in Naples, Italy.

This year, of the 19,870 petty officers first class Navywide eligible for promotion, 4,744 were selected.

Now, many of them and other sailors worldwide will be watching the roughly 100 sailors in the European theater to see whether the new CPO Academy concept makes the grade. If it does, other commands might join in.

“Any time you’re the first in something, it’s a big deal,” said selectee Adam Dye, 28, a cryptologic technician technical assigned to the Navy’s 6th Fleet in Naples. “We’re going to be more well-rounded, better equipped to handle the ever-changing missions before us.”

On Monday, for the first time in the rank’s more than 100-year history, newly selected chief petty officers will be going to school — a formalized, structured, sitting-in-a-classroom school.

It’s a stark contrast to the transitions of yesteryear in which students studied on their own.

The curriculum will cover subjects ranging from warfighting to nutrition. Much of it will be computerized for quick reference.

Master Chief Petty Officer Anthony Evangelista, fleet master chief for U.S. Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet, said in these days of asymmetrical warfighting, the days in which a chief could go to a group of other chiefs in person for advice is long gone.

“Now they’ll have that thumb-drive in their back pocket and will be connected to the Navy’s chief’s mess from anywhere in the world,” he said.

Up until now, the first three weeks of the transition from petty officer first class to chief has remained relatively the same for this year’s batch of selectees in Europe: an icebreaker to introduce yourself and family to the chief’s mess; daily, group physical training as the sun comes up; study groups; a new uniform shopping spree; and chorus practice to prepare for renditions of “Anchors Away” for the pinning ceremony on Sept. 15. The new classes mark a change.

The introduction of the academy is not the first time in the rank’s 114 years of existence that the chief’s transition has gone through change. For decades, it was called an “initiation,” but several years ago, Navy leaders directed a change from the term that connoted drunkenness and pranks. Today, being chief is serious business.

Young sailors like the academy concept.

“We like the idea that it’s going to change. The reason is because now, they want smarter, not louder,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Shaun Knittel.

“Anybody can yell at people all day or use discipline as fear. But now, they’re asking the chiefs, the new chiefs, to educate sailors and be better role models, and that is going to change the image of the chief’s mess forever.

“Somehow, ‘Ask the chief’ doesn’t mean what it used to, when the chiefs knew everything,” the 26-year-old sailor said. “A lot of chiefs today seem more into discipline than training. ‘Do it because I said so.’

“Now, it’ll be like the old days. ‘Do it because I said so, and I’ll show you how to do it.’ ”

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